Dear Reed –
I cannot believe that today would be your 21st birthday. How could it be that I have been a momma for twenty-one years now? How can it be that eight of these birthdays we’ve spent away from you? It doesn’t seem possible, and it definitely isn’t fair.
Last night, I got a serious case of the giggles. I was thinking about how enamored you were one day with your Grandpa Earl. I vividly remember being snuggled up with blankets on the cold, leather couch in the air conditioned basement, watching Land Before Time for the umpteenth time when out of the blue you told me how much you loved your Grandpa Earl. You professed your admiration because your bar-owning grandfather worked at the candy store and eats fire. (Because who doesn’t go visit their grandfather at his namesake tavern and get sweet treats?) I will never forget how hard I had to stifle my laughter.
Yet, it was a defining moment teaching me: love sees only love.
Your ability to see the love (and many times hurt) in any situation is why I feel so profoundly sad on a day like this where I miss you more than ever.
The world lost an amazing kiddo the day you died.
While you were our sunshine, you were truly a beacon to the world. You loved with abandon and you reminded us often if people hurt you they were most likely hurting themselves. I will never understand how someone so young could have such wisdom. I was truly blessed to walk this earth with you even if it was for too brief a time.
In the last few years, there has been so much hate spewed in this world, I grieve simply turning on the television or radio hearing all the awful ways hate and hurt can perpetuate themselves. I often catch my breath because it all seems so intimidating knowing I am but one voice. Then I remind myself you never diminished the power of a single person showing up to be someone’s beacon. With that hope, I steel my resolve and know shining a light may be all I have to offer the world, but today and every day that will always be more than enough.
We need more of what you had in this world – right now and always.
After my late night giggles imagining fire eating grandpas at candy stores, my heart traveled down a lane that I don’t like to traverse. I recalled our last heartfelt conversation. In a busy family of four young children, small talk abounds, but deep connections are sometimes fleeting. After picking you up at the local caucus (an incredible decision for a 7th grader), we drove back to our house where a Mardi Gras celebration was well under way.
Quietly, you once again amazed me. It isn’t going to be much longer, Mom.
Perplexed, I inquired as to what in the mayonnaise you could have been referring?
Mom, there is so much hurt in this world. It cannot be that much longer before Jesus comes back to make this all right again. We cannot go on hurting each other like this. We just can’t.
I will never know what you heard at that political gathering, but whatever it was stirred your heart and called you to love fiercely as you waited for the embodiment of love to return.
At the time, I thought it was a strange conversation, but to be honest, I was more worried about whether I hid the baby in the Kings’ Cake well enough. Seemed so important then, and now I see how absolutely insignificant it was to the lesson you were trying to teach me. Little did I know that exactly a week later, we would be returning you to heaven to bask in the eternal light of love.
All this time, I have wondered if somehow deep inside, you knew that you would not be here for much longer, and you wanted to make sure I understood that like your favorite superheroes we can never give up hope, we can never stop fighting for those less fortunate, and we can never stop believing that good will conquer evil.
Well, I listened and in my heart, I carry your legacy with me wherever I go.
Love is a powerful force. No matter our differences, and I daresay, despite them, we must always be willing to love and show light where darkness tries to wipe out hope. We must be willing to come to the table with hearts open enough to recognize we don’t know everything we think we know about someone else’s story. We must always be willing to be a helper – at all costs. Finally, we can never, never, NEVER, give up on the hope that the world can be a place filled with love.
I cannot imagine what heaven will be like, but if just for a moment, I can believe that you and Grandpa Earl will find a bar stool in a quiet tavern there today to sit together. When you two raise a glass “to love”, maybe just to make your momma smile, put a few quarters in the jukebox to sing along like we would at a campfire.
And for the rest of us, we will raise a glass (mine will be sweet tea), and go out shine our lights of love brightly, now and until we can hug you again.
Loving you every day until then – Momma